Indiana’s five-game winning streak ended on Tuesday, Jan. 22, against the Phoenix Suns 100-124 in Phoenix. It was the first time all season that Indiana had allowed 124 points. Indiana (33-8) was not prepared for what Phoenix (24-17) was throwing at them with a combination of guards Gerald Green and Goran Dragic.
Indiana is in the midst of a five game western conference road trip. On Monday, Jan. 20, Indiana defeated the Golden State Warriors, 102-94. The Phoenix Suns have had a better season then they imaged they would. In the off-season, Phoenix and Indiana made a trade that would send forward Luis Scola to Indiana in exchange for guard Green and center Miles Plumlee as well as a first round draft pick.
The trade made sense for Indiana because for the Pacers, Plumlee was never going to be the center that Roy Hibbert is. Plumlee had a chance to shine as a back up for Ian Mahimini but never developed and spent time playing for the D-League Fort Wayne Mad Ants. In Green’s case, he was never showed any flash except for the occasional dunk and lost his job to D.J. Augustin (who is now on Chicago). Scola was the man who could come in for David West and the bench would still be able to score unlike previous seasons. In previous seasons, Indiana’s bench has not been stellar. Barely having to produce.
Since the trade, Phoenix has overachieved. to say the least. I mean that in the best possible way. But for a team who has only a one if not two well known players (I.E. Eric Bledsoe), they some how are right now in the seventh spot in the conference. Reports are that Bledsoe might be out for a while, maybe the year, Green is now stepping up into the starting role.
Ultimately what happened last night? Defense? Offense? Were they prepared? Tired? Probably a combination of all of the above.
However, first and foremost Roy Hibbert struggled. He’s struggled a few times this year but he struggled quite a bit against Phoenix. He had 6 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks in the first quarter, but added just one rebound in 28 minutes. This is uncharacteristic of Hibbert. Maybe Hibbert is tired or maybe Plumlee was a match for Hibbert in the paint. The offense should utilize Hibbert in the paint but not truly rely on him. The perimeter shooting needs to get better for Indiana.
Next, Stephenson. Where were you Lance? Lance, who has had a very exciting season, is a potential All-Star this year and has caught the attention of many fans and NBA fans alike. The problem with Lance is that he is still developing and is sometimes a non-factor. I think last night was a case of this. They shut down Stephenson. Now, the problem I have with this is, could teams be finally catching onto him. Stephenson is an X-factor for sure. If he’s going he gets the team going. He’s still growing into the star player and has break games, he’s just not as consisted it seems so far as Paul George.
It’s safe to say that it was an off night for the Pacers. The team looked tired, which isn’t good when you it comes to playoff time. Indiana’s top defense in the NBA was exposed by Phoenix. The team will look to rebound on Friday, Jan. 24 against Sacramento Kings. The true test will be next week when Phoenix visits Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the final game of the series of the two teams.